By Adesina O. Koiki
ORLANDO, Fla. – Even with a shakeup of the roster right before the trade deadline, the Orlando Magic kept up their winning ways.
Point guard D.J. Augustin, starting in place of the recently-dealt Elfrid Payton, had 18 points and nine assists while Evan Fournier keyed a late push by scoring eight straight points as the Magic defeated the Atlanta Hawks 100-98 at Amway Center, Orlando’s third consecutive win.
“I think I did my part to help the team get a win,” said Augustin, making his first start since Dec. 22. “When you get opportunities to play more minutes, obviously you have a chance to do better.”
It was a struggle for both teams all game, as neither side shot above 43 percent from the field, but it was the Magic – specifically Fournier – who made the decisive plays to edge the Magic ahead.
After a dunk by John Collins gave the Hawks an 87-86 lead with under three minutes remaining, Fournier started his scoring spurt by making a jumper while being fouled, as he completed his three-point play with a free throw to give the Magic the lead back. On the next possession, Fournier hit a three-pointer from the right wing to extend Orlando’s lead to 92-87 with 2:08 remaining.
Two possessions later, Fournier made a 20-footer to give the Magic a 94-89 lead with a minute left.
“We just never could find a rhythm the whole game, but we had some guys step up and make plays down the stretch and get us a win,” Fournier said.
One of players who also stepped up for the Magic was reserve forward Marreese Speights, who scored 14 points in just 17 minutes of action, including hitting four three-pointers.
The Magic were playing shorthanded as Payton, Orlando’s first-round selection in 2014, was traded to the Phoenix Suns for a second-round draft pick earlier on Thursday as the trade deadline neared. Payton, drafted by former Magic GM Rob Hennigan out of the University of Louisiana at Lafayette, never materialized as the starting point guard of the future Orlando had envisioned, finishing his Magic career averaging 11.1 points and 6.4 assists in 281 career games.
“We added a draft pick, we retained a little [salary cap] flexibility. That’s what we got to do today,” said Jeff Weltman, Magic president of basketball operations.
Atlanta was able to keep up with the Magic despite shooting just 28 percent in the first half, as the Hawks were even with Orlando at halftime at 39-39. Dennis Schröder and Taurean Prince each scored 19 points to pace Atlanta, with Prince scoring 14 of his 19 points in the fourth quarter.
The Hawks’ loss ended a two-game winning streak.
“We got a lot of stops and gave ourselves a chance to win,” said Prince after the game. “These are the kind of games you want to be in. We just needed to make one more shot.”
Orlando will look to extend its winning streak to four on Saturday when it hosts the Milwaukee Bucks, while Atlanta plays the second of a back-to-back tonight as it will host the new-look Cleveland Cavaliers, the most active team at the trade deadline on Thursday.